Small Piece of Melting Italian Glacier Accelerates

An expert monitoring a fast-moving glacier on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc massif says a small section has picked up speed and could break off in the coming days. 
Fabrizio Troilo, a glaciologist with the Safe Mountain Foundation, said Monday that the piece — measuring some 27,000 cubic meters (953,390 cubic feet) — is moving at 60 centimeters (23.6 inches) a day.
 
That is about twice as fast as a massive 250,000-cubic-meter (8,827,683-cubic feet) chunk that also risks breaking off from the Planpincieux glacier.
 
Troilo said the smaller piece “could collapse in the next days or week,” but that such collapses are annual events and would have no impact on the rest of the valley.
 
Experts say the increased melting rate has been linked to climate change.  

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Thai Pime Minister Advises Masks Against Bangkok Smog

Thailand’s prime minister urged residents of Bangkok to wear face masks on Monday after smog covered parts of the capital in what some fear is a harbinger of more pollution to come.Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha warned in a statement on his Facebook page that the concentration of tiny dust particles called PM2.5 in the air had reached unsafe levels and said he has ordered government agencies to expedite anti-pollution measures. He also asked the construction and manufacturing sectors to reduce activities that release pollutants.Smog levels are expected to stay high for the next two or three days.The head of the country’s Pollution Control Department, Pralong Damrongthai, said the visibly dirty air was not caused by smoke originating from forest fires in Indonesia. Since last month, haze blown by monsoon winds from fires in Indonesia has affected nearby countries including the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and parts of southern Thailand, raising concerns about aviation safety and health.Indonesian officials say they have made progress in containing the fires, including successful efforts at rainmaking, which they say reduced the number of fire “hotspots” from more than 5,000 about two weeks ago to 491 on Sunday.Thailand’s Pralong told Thai PBS television that the problem in Bangkok is due to still air and high humidity becoming loaded with ultrafine dust from vehicle emissions, construction sites and other pollutants. He said it was then trapped close to the ground by a blanket of warm air in what meteorologists call an inversion.Thailand’s government has set a safe level of 50 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air, although other countries have lower limits. The Pollution Control Department’s website put Monday’s level as high as 79 micrograms.PM2.5 particulates are small enough to be sucked deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream, and can cause respiratory problems and may raise risks of cardiovascular disease and cancers.It’s the second time this year Bangkok has been blanketed with a cocktail of pollutants. Smog levels also spiked back in January.Pralong acknowledged the pollution levels might shoot up again in January and February, during the dry season, when farmers burn fields to make way for new planting, another factor that contributes to the problem. He said his department and other units are preparing more stringent measures to better handle the problem than earlier this year.As the noxious smog settled over Bangkok, many residents fished out masks from drawers and went about their business.“A lot of my friends are saying they come to the office, their noses are running. Their eyes really hurt. All of them are really coughing today. It’s not normal anymore,” said Piyavathara Natthadana, an office worker who was wearing a mask.“There’s not much we can do. We have to monitor the news and protect ourselves,” said Chakrapong Sanguanjit, another Bangkok resident walking downtown with a mask on.Some environmentalists blamed the government for failing to act fast enough, despite being well aware of the issues.“The cause of the problem is the same. The sources of the pollution are the same. But measures to control the sources of pollution are not implemented yet because they said that takes time,” said Tara Buakamsri of the environmental group Greenpeace.

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Historic Payment to Gabon Seeks to Preserve ‘Earth’s Lungs’

Gabon is one of the greenest countries in the world, with 88 percent of its land covered by forest. A historic agreement between Gabon and Norway is seeking to ensure it stays that way. Through the U.N.-backed Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), Norway will pay Gabon up to $150 million over 10 years in exchange for Gabon reducing its carbon emissions and to give value to the forests’ role in absorbing carbon dioxide. In an interview with Voice of America, Lee White, Gabon’s Minister of Forests, said the agreement is groundbreaking because it is making it nearly as valuable for countries to preserve forests as to chop them down. “In all of the deals we’ve seen over the years, forest carbon has been worth $5 a ton. And in this one, subject to meeting best practice, they’ve gone to $10. So overnight we doubled the price of forest carbon. It gives a lot of hope to all the other forest nations,” he said. In a statement, CAFI said the deal will allow Gabon to achieve its goal of preserving 98 percent of its existing rainforest for the future. Across Central Africa, forests store as much as 70 billion tons of carbon which is equal to 5 to 10 years of global greenhouse gas emissions, CAFI said. The African forest is the second-largest rainforest in the world, sometimes called “Earth’s second lung”White said the agreement is part of a larger effort by Gabon to preserve its forests. Ten years ago, the country made headlines by announcing an end to raw timber exports. Although logging continues for processed wood products and domestic use, it is done in a sustainable way, White said.“We’ve doubled the number of forestry jobs and we’re opening new processing plants pretty much every month. And so that measure is starting to pay off. And what we’re finding is that we can make more money and create more jobs by exploiting less,” he said.He added that this is a strong reversal of centuries of exploitation of natural resources on the African continent by Europeans.“If you look at the history of the continent it’s been about ripping out cheap natural resources and sending it to other parts of the world to develop,” White said. “So Africa fueled the Industrial Revolution. Africa has fueled part of China’s rise and in economic terms. And so the first component of it is to make the use of our natural resources indigenous to transform things locally.”

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Province in Southern Pakistan Set to Ban Plastic Bags on October First

They choke coral reefs, clog waterways, and provide a near-permanent mark on the landfills they occupy.  One environmental agency (WWF) estimates that Pakistan’s port city of Karachi produces five-to-seven-thousand tons of plastic each day. A ban on plastic bags in the region is due to go into effect this week. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi has this story in the bag.

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Hope Endures for Nigerian Cardiac Patients

Health experts say Nigeria is seeing increasing cases of heart disease. Low awareness, lack of adequate medical facilities and expertise are major factors worsening the situation in the country. But a non profit is collaborating with the World Heart Federation to provide proper education and treatment for underprivileged patients.Participants chat at an awareness and fundraising event to mark World Heart Day in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.The program is organized by the non-profit, Global Development and Charity Support Foundation in collaboration with the World Heart Federation.Head of the non profit, Samuel Asomugha says apart from educating locals on the early signs of heart disease, his organization is making funds available to treat patients.”When you have a healthy heart, then you can lead a healthy life, then a lot of these health and heart related mortalities can be avoided,” he said.The non-profit targets about 1,000 patients for treatment.A 2018 WHO country profile reveals cardiovascular diseases is the leading cause of deaths among non-communicable diseases in Nigeria with over 11 percent prevalence.”Whichever heart disease you want to look at, whether it’s heart failure, whether it’s coronary artery disease, the incidence of patients who are coming forward to hospital is on the rise,” says cardiologist Dauda Balami.Congenital heart deformities in children are also on the rise.Nnamdi Azubuike’s one-year-old child was diagnosed with a heart condition in 2015.”We found out that he was not breathing very well, so we went to the hospital and after the analysis, then a doctor now told us that he’s having a hole in his heart,” said Azubuike.Heart related conditions often require tertiary level care and sophisticated surgeries but Nigeria lacks medical facilities and the expertise needed.Paediatrician and cardiologist Tolu Utele, admits the situation is serious.”It is almost like a death sentence for children that are born with these heart defects, all we do in most places is to manage them until they die and many of them actually end up dying,” said Utele.As talks around heart issues continue in Nigeria, citizens, nonprofits and many with conditions hope things get better.  

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Disability Group President Resigns Over Thunberg Remark

An elected official in central Illinois has resigned as president of a local nonprofit after a social media post about teen climate activist Greta Thunberg.The Peoria Journal Star reports that Jay Hall wondered on Facebook if the 16-year-old Swede had “Mongoloidism.” He acknowledged it was an inappropriate reference to Down syndrome.
 
Hall has resigned as president of a local AMBUCS group in Pekin, an organization that helps people with mobility problems. He says he wasn’t trying to insult Thunberg. He believes she’s being manipulated by climate change activists.AMBUCS says it has accepted Hall’s resignation over “inappropriate comments.”
Hall also is an elected member of the Tazewell County Board.    

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Teenage Climate Activist Leads Hundreds of Thousands in Montreal March

Hundreds of thousands of people joined teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg for a march in Montreal Friday, part of a second wave of global protests demanding action on climate change.Thunberg responded to critics, including U.S. President Donald Trump, saying she doesn’t “understand why grown-ups would choose to mock children and teenagers for just communicating and acting on the science when they could do something good instead.”Without mentioning Trump by name, Thunberg said, “We’ve become too loud for people to handle so people want to silence us.”She called on world leaders to do more for the environment, following a meeting earlier Friday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.”My message to all the politicians around the world is the same,” she said. “Just listen and act on the current best available science.””He (Trudeau) is of course obviously not doing enough, but this is just a huge problem, this is a system that is wrong,” she said.Trudeau earlier praised Thunberg’s activism saying, “She is the voice of a generation.”Protests also took place Friday across Europe and Asia, with organizers saying 200,000 people, mainly youths, joined a march in Milan and another 100,000 in Rome.Protesters gathered in a host of countries, including India, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Austria and Germany.The demonstrations come a week after millions of youths and adults rallied worldwide ahead of the U.N. summit in New York.

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US Probe of Vaping Illnesses Focuses on THC From Marijuana

U.S. health officials said Friday that their investigation into an outbreak of severe vaping-related illnesses was increasingly focused on products that contain the marijuana compound THC. 
 
Most of the 800 people who got sick vaped THC, the ingredient in marijuana that causes a high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But officials said they didn’t know whether the THC was the problem or some other substance added to the vaping liquid, such as thickeners. 
 
“The outbreak currently is pointing to a greater concern around THC-containing products,” said the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat. 
 
So far, investigators have not identified a particular e-cigarette, vaping device, liquid or ingredient behind the outbreak. But officials say patients have mentioned the name Dank Vapes most frequently. Many of the people who got sick in Illinois and Wisconsin said they used prefilled THC cartridges sold in Dank Vapes packaging. No single store or distributor
 
“It’s a generic product name that doesn’t really tie back to one store or one distributor,” said Dr. Jennifer Layden, chief medical officer for the Illinois Department of Public Health. 
 
“Folks are getting it from friends or folks on the street, with no understanding of where it came from prior to that.” she said Friday. 
 
Until a cause is pinned down, the CDC continues to advise Americans to consider avoiding all vaping products, though the agency on Friday added the phrase “particularly those containing THC.” 
 
“We didn’t feel comfortable dropping the broader recommendation yet,” said Schuchat. 
 
This week, the CDC reported 805 confirmed and probable cases of the lung illness. Thirteen people have died. Only the U.S. has reported such an outbreak, although Canadian officials this week confirmed that country’s first case. 
 
On Friday, the agency provided more details in two reports: 
 
— The first case in the U.S. began in late March. Cases ramped up in late June and rose dramatically in late July. 
 
— The median age of those who have become ill is 23. But the median age of those who have died is much older — 50. 
 
— Nationally, 9 in 10 cases required hospitalization. Many young and previously healthy adolescents and young adults needed machines to help them breathe. 
 
— In Illinois and Wisconsin, patients mentioned 87 different product names and many vaped more than one. Similar to injury
 
Doctors say the illnesses resemble an inhalation injury. Symptoms have included shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, diarrhea and vomiting. 
 
Officials continue to find a substantial numbers of U.S. patients — the new report says 16% — who said they vaped only nicotine, and not THC. But the report noted that in Wisconsin, five patients who initially denied using products with THC turned out to have used them. 
 
The most illnesses have occurred in California, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin. 

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Modi Tells UN India Launching Campaign to Stamp Out Single-Use Plastic

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations on Friday that India was launching a campaign to stamp out the use of single-use plastics.”Even as I am addressing you today, a very large campaign is being started across the entire country to make India free of single-use plastic,” Modi, who wants to scrap such plastics by 2022, told the 193-member U.N. General Assembly.Officials told Reuters last month that India is set to impose a nationwide ban on plastic bags, cups and straws on Oct. 2. 

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2nd Wave of Protests Caps Week Focused on Climate Action

Students took to the streets across the globe in the hundreds of thousands Friday for a second wave of worldwide protests demanding swift action on climate change.The protests were inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who spoke to world leaders this week at a United Nations summit in New York.Friday’s rallies kicked off in New Zealand, where young people marched on Parliament in Wellington, holding one of the largest protests ever held there. Organizers in the capital were forced to change their security plans to accommodate the crowds, while thousands more marched in Auckland and other parts of the country.On the other side of the planet, more than 100,000 rallied in Italy’s capital, Rome, where protesters held up signs with slogans such as “Change the system, not the climate” or just the word “Future.”Activists demonstrate during a worldwide protest demanding action on climate change, in Milan, Italy, Sept. 27, 2019.Marches took place in about 180 locations across Italy, including the country’s financial hub of Milan where one banner read “How dare you!” — the accusation Thunberg, 16, leveled at world leaders during her U.N. speech in New York on Monday. The Italian Education Ministry said students attending the event would not be penalized for missing school.Fears about the impact of global warming on the younger generation were expressed by schoolchildren in Dharmsala, India. South Asia depends heavily on water from the Himalayan glaciers that are under threat from climate change.In Berlin, activists from the Fridays for Future group braved persistent rain to protest against a package the German government recently agreed for cutting the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Experts say the proposal falls far short of what’s needed if the world’s sixth biggest emitter is to meet the goal of the Paris climate accord.Actor Javier Bardem joined dozens of young people in San Sebastian in one of several early demonstrations and rallies held across Spain on Friday morning ahead of evening demonstrations to be held in the major towns and cities. They are expected to draw big crowds, especially in Madrid and Barcelona.Demonstrators hold up posters at a climate change rally in Erfurt, Germany, Sept. 27, 2019.Bardem was in San Sebastian to promote a documentary he worked on with Greenpeace.Thunberg said she planned to attend a protest in Montreal.”New Zealand leading the way into Friday nr 2 in #WeekForFuture,” she tweeted. “Good luck everyone striking around the world. Change is coming!!”In Wellington, 18-year-old university student Katherine Rivers said it was great to see young people taking action and personal responsibility by marching.”We need to stop pandering to some of the people who are making money off climate change. The big oil companies, the dairy industry etc.,” she said. “And make a change for the future of these kids that are here.”While thousands of high school students elected to take time off school to protest, many adults also joined the marches. One of them was 83-year-old grandmother-of-three Violet McIntosh.”It’s not my future we’re thinking about,” McIntosh said.  She said it was time politicians should listen to young people like Thunberg, whom she described as “amazing.””She stood out there by herself to start it all. Millions of people are following her now,” McIntosh said. “She should be very proud of herself.”In the Netherlands, where thousands joined a protest in The Hague, some participants acknowledged that getting politicians to take action against global warming was only part of the story.”It’s also about then leading sustainable lives and making changes to make your life more sustainable,” said Utrecht University student Beth Meadows.German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said part of the government’s plan is to encourage citizens to shift their behavior.”People, and businesses too, know that over the coming years, step by step, behavior that harms the climate (and) causes a lot of emissions will have a higher price than before,” Seibert told reporters in Berlin. 

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